Whirlwind 6th inning blows Knights past Cyclones

Union scores 7 times in the sixth to slide past NICL rival Denver, 10-9

Union’s Grant Behrens makes contact with the ball on June 16, at home against Wapsie Valley. On Friday in Denver, Behrens notched one run and one RBI for the Knights in their win over NICL rival the Cyclones, 10-9. -Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

A possible glimpse into Union baseball’s postseason was on full display Friday night in Denver and it was as exciting as ever.

The Knights took on their NICL rival after a trio of losses including to Wapsie Valley at home Thursday night. But the Knights blew past the Denver Cyclones on Friday in the sixth inning by scoring 7 runs for an eventual 10-9 victory.

“That was a really big game,” Union head coach Chris Shannon told the Telegraph on Sunday afternoon of the win over Denver. “Since we won that game, we now have a chance at the fourth seed [in the postseason].”

Pairings for the Class 2A and 1A postseason district assignments are set to be released this week. Both Union and Denver were assigned to District 12 for Class 2A postseason play.

On Friday, in the top of the sixth, with Denver up 6-3 over the Knights and two outs, Shannon called for a timeout following a walk by Ty Lorenzen and with TJ Freeland on deck.

In the top of the fourth on June 16 against Wapsie Valley, Knights catcher Ryan Devries (left) looks to the umpire in the wake of a play at home plate that looked like an out for the Knights but the Warriors player was called safe - to the surprise of many. Devries has been a valuable player for the Knights all season, according to head coach Chris Shannon. “He’s grown immensely,” Shannon said. “He might be our most improved player defensively and one of our most consistent.” –Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

“I talked to TJ [Freeland] and said we’re going to score seven runs right here and he said ‘yes we are,'” Shannon said of his timeout chat with Freeland. “We scored seven runs with two outs.”

Denver would score three more runs in the bottom of the sixth but couldn’t recover any further and the Knights sealed the victory in the bottom of the seventh.

At-bat, Sam Fehl notched three RBIs and crossed home plate himself twice, while Lorenzen, Freeland, and Joe Bistline notched two RBIs, and Grant Behrens notched one RBI. Mason Mullen also scored two runs, while Behrens, Lorenzen, Freeland, Michael Niebergall, and Danny and Seth Petersen scored one run apiece.

Danny Petersen pitched all seven innings Friday night against the Cyclones – striking out five, walking two, and allowing 7 hits.

Union’s pitching rotation has been a work-in-progress much of the season for Shannon.

TJ Freeland rounds third on his way toward home in the bottom of the third on June 16, against Wapsie Valley at home. On Friday in Denver, Freeland got the bats cracking for the Knights in the top of sixth with two outs – a streak which led to seven runs and a win over the Cyclones, 10-9. Freeland notched one run and two RBIs against Denver. –Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

In an ideal season, Shannon said he would rotate pitchers Freeland, Danny Petersen, Behrens, and Bistline for conference games, while Seth Petersen, Nibergall, Fehl, Sawyer Pence, and Ethan Winnike would pitch non-conference games.

But with the pod play in place this year, there are only four opportunities for conference play.

“The reason I have [the pitching rotation I do] is because of consistency,” Shannon explained. “More consistency out of the conference [pitchers], [while] the non-conference [pitchers] are less consistent.”

Shannon has also been down a starting pitcher since June 3 when Freeland bowed out during the game against Columbus Catholic due to a sore arm.

In just his second year with the Knights, Shannon said he fervently wishes he had more time with the current group of senior athletes.

Joe Bistline pitches early in the game against the Wapsie Valley Warriors on Thursday, June 16, in La Porte City. Bistline has been a regular on the mound this season for the Knights. -Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

“This is a group that I really wish I would have had when they were 8th graders,” Shannon said. “A lot of potential with this group. … If I’d had them those extra three years, a lot more progress could have been made.”

With the postseason less than two weeks away, Shannon said there are a couple of things he’s focusing on.

“Our Achilles heel all season has been not capitalizing when we have runners on base and in scoring position,” Shannon said.

The team also needs to work on “trying to get over that one inning when they seem to forget how to play baseball – that has been a challenge.”

It only took one inning Friday night for the Knights to come back and take it all and Shannon said he is immensely proud of his athletes for laying it all out there.

Union center fielder Michael Niebergall pictured early in the game on Thursday, June 16, at home against Wapsie Valley. Against Denver on Friday night, Niebergall contributed four put-outs, helping to propel his team to a win, 10-9, over the Cyclones. –Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

The remainder of the Knights’ regular season will be spent entirely on the road. After facing G-R on Tuesday and Jesup on Thursday, Union is set to play Vinton-Shellsburg on Friday. They’ll face Sumner-Fredericksburg for a doubleheader next Monday before rounding out the regular season on Wednesday, June 29, against Marion.

Heading into the week of June 20, the Knights were 7-16 on the season.

After hitting a single as the lead-off batter against Wapsie Valley at home on June 16, Sam Fehl slid into second base following a wild throw to first. On Friday in Denver, Fehl’s bat was on fire. Against the Cyclones he notched three RBIs and crossed home plate twice, helping propel the team to a win 10-9 over Denver. -Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

Knights Shortstop Ty Lorenzen snags a line drive and looks to throw to first on June 16, during the Knights game at home against the Wapsie Valley Warriors. Against Denver on Friday, Lorenzen contributed three assists at shortstop. -Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

Union senior Seth Petersen makes contact with the ball early in the game on June 16, at home against Wapsie Valley. Petersen notched one run for the Knights Friday on the road during the team’s win, 10-9, over their NICL conference rival Denver. –Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

Junior Ty Lorenzen slides under the Wapsie Valley catcher's mitt at home for what should have been the Knights' fifth run of the evening in the bottom of the third on June 16, but incredulously was called out. On Friday in Denver, Lorenzen notched one run and two RBIs for the Knights, helping to propel the team to victory over their NICL conference rival. –Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker